Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Ivy Years Series

The Year We Fell Down - Book One

By Sarina Bowen
Rated 4 Stars
Kindle Edition

I have always loved Romance novels but have learned over the years to be able to suspend my disbelief and skip past a lot of badly written icky sex scenes to get to the heart of the story.  So I am finding this new to me author refreshing.  Don't take this the wrong way.  I am not slamming the Romance genre its self but it's just like any other genre there are very good ones and very bad ones and thousands of in-between ones.  And since I read a lot of romance novels it only stands to reason that I run into my fair share of wall bangers.  But my point is that when I find an author who tells a great story, writes really well and touches my heart that's a real red letter day in my reading world.  This is one of those books and Sarina Bowen is an authors I will certainly follow.

 I really liked both characters.  Especially Corey who faced the new life she was unexpectedly dealt with common sense, courage and a sense of humor.  She only whined a little bit but that only made her more human in my eyes.  She deserved more whines than she took.

Hartley, well I had a little trouble with him.  In some ways he was a little too good to be true and in other ways he spent a lot of time with his head up his . . . in a dark place. But I learned to like him even before he got his act together.

As for as Hartley's snooty girl friend, well I had to cut her more slack than she deserved because I have a Granddaughter named Stacia and it's not all that common a name.

Book Description
 March 20, 2014
The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?

She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He's way out of Corey's league.

Also, he's taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the "gimp ghetto" of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

They're just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she's falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won't, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness -- one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who's afraid to love her back.

The Year We Hid Away - Book 2

These New Adult novels have so much more depth than I expected.  Both of the main characters in this book faced some daunting challenges, the kind of challenges that could believably happen to a young person.  I really love it when I don't have to supped my disbelief a single time in a book about relationships.  I also liked it that I was not sure until nearly to the end whether or not Scarlet's Father was guilty or not. Hat tip to the author for keeping the reader in suspense. 

Book Description

 May 26, 2014
She's hiding something big. He's hiding someone small.
Scarlet Crowley's life was torn apart the day father was arrested for unspeakable crimes. Now the shock has worn off, but not the horror.
It's a safe bet that Scarlet is the only first year at Harkness College who had to sneak past TV news trucks parked on her front lawn just to leave town. But college will be Scarlet's fresh start. Clutching a shiny new student ID -- with a newly minted name on it -- she leaves it all behind. Even if it means lying to the boy she's falling for.

Bridger McCaulley is a varsity hockey star known for being a player both on and off the ice. But a sobering family crisis takes that all away. Protecting his sister means a precarious living arrangement and constant deception. The only bright spot in his week is the few stolen hours he spends with Scarlet.

The two form a tentative relationship based on the understanding that some things must always be held back. But when grim developments threaten them both, going it alone just won't work anymore. And if they can't learn to trust one another now, the families who let them down will take everything they've struggled to keep.

The Understatement of the Year (Ivy Years #3)

Rated 5 Stars

My word, this book really got to me.  It is is the first book I have ever read that really address the subject of how  how miserable life can be for a gay young person to live in the closet. At an age when at lot of young people are dealing with all of the issues that come with being a teen ager to have the added stress of knowing their  sexual orientation is going to add complications that will alter everyones perception of them is terribly painful.  Even if they come from loving homes where they are unconditionally loved and accepted they know, in fact have almost certainly already found out, that there are a lot of ugly and hateful people in the world.  

Book Description

 September 29, 2014
What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he's made an art of hiding his sexual orientation from everyone. Including himself.

So it's a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team's new left wing could destroy Graham's life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it's worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only "out" player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn't exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won't even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former... best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn't doing so well. He drinks too much and can't focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won't be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

Blonde Date  - Novella

Rated 4 Stars

Book Description

 July 6, 2014
A blind date. A nervous sorority girl. A mean-spirited fraternity prank. What could go wrong?

As a sorority pledge, there are commandments that Katie Vickery must live by. One: thou shalt not show up for the party without a date. Two: the guy shall be an athlete, preferably an upperclassman.

Unfortunately, Katie just broke up with her jerkface football player boyfriend. Even worse, her last encounter with him resulted in utter humiliation. She’d rather hide under the bed than attend a party where he'll be.

Yet staying home would mean letting him win.

Enjoying herself tonight was out of the question. She could only hope to get through the evening without her blind date noticing that he was spending the evening with a crazy person.

Andrew Baschnagel is living proof that nice guys don’t finish first. He’s had his eye on Katie since the moment her long legs waltzed into his art history class. So when her roommate sets Andy up to be Katie’s date, he’d be crazy to say no. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of practice with either girls or parties. Yet.

Inch'on 1950

By:  Gordon Rottman
Rated 3 Stars

This book is  very dry and it was difficult for me to keep my attention focused on what I was reading.   .  However it did answer one question that I have always wondered about.  How in the heck did my late husband even end up fighting in this war anyway?  He never talked about it much except that he was recalled and not happy about it but that there was nothing he could do about it.  He only served one year that time.  Oh he did say on the night before the landing (he was one of a three man crew on the landing crafts) and been given a form and a pen and told to make their wills.  He said that made them all feel great.  Not!

Anyway this book went into detail about how surprised the US was about the whole Korean thing and that after WW2 was over the Gov't  had dismantled all the services to the point where they were completely unprepared to fight in any type of conflict.  However, when  people were being discharged after WW2 the Gov't had, in a rare case of foresight, required each member of the armed services to sign a paper saying they agreed to being released to the "Inactive Reserves" which could be called up should the country ever need them.  And in this case they immediately started calling up thousands of WW2 veterans, especially those who had previous combat experience so they could pitched straight into combat without training.  And that's the story of how my husband ended up in the Korean War. Now I know.

Book Description

 October 23, 2012
Osprey's study of Inch'on, which was probably the most significant campaign in the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as the last major amphibious assault of division-size conducted in the history of warfare. The odds were stacked against the US troops, with virtually no time for training and many of the divisions unprepared for the conflict. The success of the Inch'on campaign is a testament to the sheer initiative of the officers and NCOs conducted it. This book details the strategy and tactics that led to the operation's success, as well as narrating the experience of the battle in fascinating detail.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Just Not Mine

(Escape to New Zealand Book 6)
By:  Rosalind James

Rated 4 1/2 Stars

This is one of my favorite books in the Escape to New Zealand but honestly, all of them are good reads.  But some of these books connect with me more than others and I connected especially well with Hugh and Josie.

Book Description
 June 5, 2014
Destiny can sneak up on you. Or it can smack you in the face.

Hugh Latimer’s coping with a few problems just now. A broken hand, missing the European rugby tour . . . and a half-brother and sister who are playing havoc with his love life. Instead of packing down in the scrum, he’s driving the carpool to ballet—or forgetting it’s his turn. When he hears his neighbor wailing out bad pop in the wee hours, it’s the last straw.

Josie Pae Ata is a fortunate woman. A new house, good friends, a gorgeous boyfriend—oh, and stardom, too. Getting involved with her new neighbors would bring risks she doesn’t need. But life has a way of changing the rules. And when you get more than you can handle, sometimes all you can do is hang on for the ride. 

The Mist's of Avalon

By: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Rated: 5+ Stars
Audio Book

I first read this book about 15 years ago but this is the first time I have listened to it.  Listening to an audio book is a completely different thing for me  than actually reading it is so I could say the story new for several reasons.  The first reason is that I am forced to go at the narrator's pace.  If it's a book I really like as in this case I get a lot more detail that my eyes have a tendency to skip over in its hurry to find out what happens next.  The second reason is that during the intervening 15 years I have read a lot of other books and I have forgotten a to of it.  It was time for me to revisit this one.

Book Description

 July 15, 2001
In Marion Zimmer Bradley's masterpiece, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot's court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king's rise and schemed for his fall. From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds stunningly before us. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur's kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds' and old and new religions' claims its most famous victim.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Twilight Warriors: The Deadliest Naval Battle of World War II and the Men Who Fought It | [Robert Gandt] PLAY AUDIO SAMPLE The Twilight Warriors: The Deadliest Naval Battle of World War II and the Men Who Fought It

By:  Robert Gant
Rated 5 Stars

A while back I purchased this book with one of my audible credits. It's about a squadron of airman who were commissioned in the Naval air force right at the end of WWII in the pacific. Why such a pacifist person like me likes war books is a mystery for the ages. But this particular book caught my eye because the blurb said it was about the invasion of Okinawa and was the largest naval battle of WW2. My husband participated in that battle as a very young 17 year old sailor. He joined on this 17th birthday scared to death he was going to miss the war completely. This attached photo of him was taken around that time. I did not have this picture of him but in a serendipitous moment Ree posted it on his tribute to her Dad. It was so perfect for this post
I swiped it from her.
After listening to this book, I am sorry I didn't ask him more about it. I don't remember him saying much other than he said he was one of the picket ships designed to make smoke that obscured the bigger ships from the kamikazes and to provide extra anti aircraft fire, that he heard more fighting than he saw since he was in the engine room when his ship was engaged in fighting. He also said that at the time he was not smart enough to be scared but I think he must have lied about that because in this book the pickett ships suffered way more casualties because they were the first things the suicide pilots saw and he would have to have been really clueless not to be. But at 17? Well he might have been. <shrug>.
I realize this is ancient history to people now. Heck it was 69 years ago. But having a personal connection sure made the book more interesting to me and I wish now I had asked him more about what it was like for a cocky 17 year kid who didn't have enough sense to be afraid. The sailor I knew and loved was the man who held responsible positions and swaned off to Viet Nam for 6 months at a time where I never considered him to be in the least bit of danger even though he probably was in some. All navel ships can be dangerous in certain circumstances.
Any way this year on November 11th I am going to remember the young boy who became the man I loved and married. Adding together all his service he was downright awesome

Publisher's Summary:

"April 1945. The end of World War II finally appears to be nearing. The Nazis are collapsing in Europe, and the Americans are vastly overpowering the Japanese in the Pacific. For a group of pilots in their early 20s who were trained during the twilight of the war, the biggest concern is that they'll never actually see real action and will go home without having a chance to face the enemy. They call themselves Tail-End Charlies. They fly at the tail end of formations, stand at the tail end of chow lines, and now they are prepared for battle at the tail end of the war. Little do they know that they will be key players in the most difficult and bloodiest of naval battles---not only of World War II but in all of American history: the campaign to take the Japanese island of Okinawa to serve as a basis for an eventual invasion of Japan. Derived from interviews with and newly discovered memoirs, journals, and correspondence of Okinawa veterans from both the American and Japanese sides, The Twilight Warriors provides a thrilling you-are-there narrative. Like the HBO series The Pacific, this book combines thrilling action with human stories of courage and sacrifice and triumph. It's Band of Brothers at sea and in the sky."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tarzan of the Apes

by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Rated 4 1/2 Stars
Format:  Kindle

This book was a free download for Kindle.  I read this when I was about 12 years old and that was a very long time ago.  The writing is dated but not as badly as it could be.  It's also quite funny in places.  Professor Porter, Jane's Father and his Secretary Mr. Samuel T. Philander must have been the characters that Laurel and Hardy were based on.  Jane is a typical ninny because she is a blonde and her character was written by a man in about 1914.  Her Father advises her not to trouble her pretty little head with weighty matters!  Fatal words in todays world.  But I'm enjoying it.  A very nice change of pace.

Friday, July 11, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee
Rated: 5 Stars!!!!!!
Audio book
Narrated by: Sissy Spacek

This book was a re-read for me.  I read it several years ago and like most of the rest of the world I loved it.  I have been checking from to to time to see if audible had added it to their catalog and finally it showed up.

I purchased it the day it became available and immediately listened to it straight through and it was magic.  Sissy Spacek's narration is pure genius.  It transforms what was already one of the best books I had ever read and manages to add even more dimensions to it.  I grew up in small towns in the South and was a little girl very much like Scout.  I was transported straight back into my childhood.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

In Falling Snow

By: Mary Rose MacColl

Rated: 5 Stars

This month marks the 100th anniversary of World War One, also known as The Great War. The early 20th century is my favorite period of history and some very notable books have been set in this time period. This book is probably going on my list of best reads in 2014. 

Falling Snow is a beautifully written book that focusses on the lives of some very strong women, both in the past and the present. It's also a very poignant book as there was nothing about that war that wasn't sad. But it is also a very uplifting book about accomplishments, love, secrets, sorrows and survival both in the past and the present.

My only quibble with the book is that it switched back and forth between the past and the future. That's always a problem with me but if the book is good enough I don't groan too loud.

Publisher's Summary
A best-selling Australian writer's American debut and a heart-wrenching novel of World War I.
Iris Crane's tranquil life is shattered when a letter summons memories from her bittersweet past: her first love, her best friend, and the tragedy that changed everything. Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her 15-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women - a decision that will change her life.
Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris' granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War

By Jacqueline Winspeare
Rated 3 1/3 Stars

This book didn't work nearly as well for me as Winspeare's Masie Dobbs series does.   It was OK I guess but sadly I found it very predictable. I would not recommend it unless you knew nothing about that era and wanted the history lesson.  As always Winspeare does a great job with the atmosphere of that time but there is really nothing driving this book as far as story. I knew in the first chapter how it was going to end.

What I did enjoy about the book was her portrait of life on a small Kentish farm.  I also enjoyed the way Kezia, the wife who ran the farm and kept the home fires burning while her husband went off to war.  She painted lovely word pictures in her letters to him of imaginary meals that she was cooking for them as if he was there with her.  I thought that was a lovely  way to convey a feeling of comfort and a connection to home.  I thought that was cleverly done by the author although the recipes did wander out into left field from time to time.

I did not care for the ending. It ended too abruptly.  I know that Happy Ever Afters were thin on the ground at the end of WW1 but I'm not a reader who needs stark reality all the time.  A little fantasy can be a good thing sometimes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hong Kong

By Jan Morris
Rated: 3 Stars

I am a big fan of travel books and if this were 1995 and if I was planning to travel to Hong Kong I would have found this book invaluable.  It's an interesting and well written snap shot of Hong Kong during the 1980's with a brief mentions here and there of what happened in the past as background information for what is happening at the present.  All from a British POV.  But as reader looking for a comprehensive history of Hong Kong this book falls short.   

What this book does is give to give the reader a sense of what colonial Hong Kong was like for the British which is almost exactly what it was like for the British in India.  They created their own self absorbed little bubble everywhere they went and life outside that bubble only existed as it related to them. Interesting but no surprises for the reader there. 

Where this book falls sadly short is examine the part the Chinese played.  The Chinese made up 96% of the population, but are described repeatedly as a mysterious, superstitious mass.  Energetic and hard working but whose motives and culture were unfathomable to the westerner.

When I finished this book I had more questions than I had when I began and I'm off to find a real history of Hong Kong.  One that includes the years after 1997 to now.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Escape to New Zealand - Page Two

Just For Now - Book Three

By Rosalind James
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

The thing I like about this author is that each of the heroines is so different from one another.  Unlike Hannah who has built a successful business career and Kate the feisty sporty type, Jena is a much softer kind of woman who enjoys homemaking.

Book Description

 February 14, 2014
There’s no place like home ...

For teacher Jenna McKnight, nothing spells “heartbreak” like finding her husband with somebody else--in her bed. It’s clearly time to reinvent herself. A new body, a new city, and a new job later, she’s done just that. The beautiful Auckland villa isn’t really her home, though. Finn Douglas and his kids aren’t really her family, however much she wishes they were. And playing house can be a dangerous game.

Rugby star Finn Douglas is just looking for a temporary nanny and housekeeper. Not a girlfriend, and definitely not a wife. He can’t resist Jenna’s cooking, it’s true. Who knew he’d have so much trouble resisting her? He wants to do what’s right for his kids. But waiting is so hard ... 

Just For Fun - Book Four

Rated 4 1/2 Stars

I liked Emma and Nic.  The are the kind of people one likes to spend time with.  

Book Description

 December 6, 2012
What happens in Fiji stays in Fiji ... except when it doesn't.

Nic Wilkinson is a responsible, organized, disciplined rugby player at the top of his game. Emma Martens is a sometimes-scattered, often-emotional, and always-broke would-be designer with a big chip on her shoulder where Nic’s concerned.

They have no history together, except one perfect week. Nothing in common anymore, except the most important thing of all.

Getting together again would be messy. Complicated. Scary. And, just maybe, worth every risk. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Escape to New Zealand Series - Page One

Just this once - Book One 

 By:  Rosalind James
Audio Books
Rated 5 Stars

I loved this book.  It has everything I like going for it.  For starters it's set in New Zealand, a location I new little to nothing about.  The main male character is a rugby player and sport I really did know nothing about and it's a well written, interesting story about characters that I liked.  What more can you ask for in a book.

Book Description
 August 29, 2012
Everyone needs to be rescued sometimes.

Everyone but Hannah Montgomery, that is. She just needs a vacation. Three weeks in New Zealand to sort out her life, figure out what she wants, seems just right. Oh, and to relax. She should definitely put that on the agenda. She certainly isn't looking for a sexy fling with a professional rugby player, no matter how attractive he is. Hannah doesn't do casual. But maybe just this once ...

As much as he's shared with Hannah, Drew Callahan has kept one very big secret. And learning the truth, now that she's back home again, has made Hannah warier than ever. Drew knows that she's right for him. But how can he convince her to let down her guard enough to explore what they could have together?

Just Good Friends - Book 2

Rated 4 1/2 Stars
Audio Book

This book was a slow starter for me. At first I didn't think I was going to like it as much as I did the other one.  I had a hard time warming up to the characters.   But as the book progressed Koti turned out to have a lot more going for him than I first thought.  He was actually a pretty smart, sweet guy with a witty sense of humor.  It's just that his good looks kept everyone, including this reader from getting that at first.  As for Kate, well once you began to understand out exactly what she had been through it got a lot easier to put up with her snakiness.

Book Description

 August 30, 2012
Some bets were made to be lost.

Kate Lamonica isn’t Koti James’s type. Too small. Too dark. And heaps too much work. So it’s an easy bet that he can be her friend for six weeks without making a move on her, no matter what his mates would have said.

Kate can’t believe she’s made the bet at all. New Zealand had seemed like the perfect escape from the stalker who’d threatened first her peace of mind, and then her life. She certainly doesn’t need any more trouble. Why on earth has she agreed to spend time with a Maori rugby player who’s far too handsome and charming for his own good—and knows it?

But there’s more than one game Koti’s good at playing ...